By Jeslyn Dees |
April 2nd is known as World Autism Awareness Day, but all throughout the month of April, many individual autism organizations team together to promote awareness of the disorder, as well as educate people about the spectrum of autism. To show support for the understanding and acceptance of autism, it is common for people to wear blue throughout April. This movement is referred to as “Light It Up Blue” to shine a light on autism. Although most people understand that autism is a disorder, many are uneducated on its symptoms and prevalence, which is why it is important to dedicate this month to sharing knowledge and understanding about autism.
Autism is commonly referred to as autism spectrum disorder, due to the wide spectrum of conditions that are associated with the disorder. Autism is difficult to objectively define because there are many types of autism, and every person affected may have a distinct set of strengths and challenges that set them apart from other people with the disorder. Autism is generally associated with symptoms such as social communication challenges, restricted behaviors, and repetitive behaviors.
Both verbal and nonverbal communication can be obstacles for people with autism. Approximately one third of those with autism are nonverbal, but they can struggle with understanding or appropriately using gestures, facial expressions, and eye contact. Those who do use verbal communication can struggle with using an appropriate tone of voice to convey what they are trying to communicate or misread others’ tones of voice. Autism also creates difficulty in understanding others’ emotions and intentions, as well as understanding and expressing one’s own emotions. Other social challenges include seeking emotional comfort from others, feeling overwhelmed in social situations, taking turns in conversation, and gauging personal space.
Many people with autism display a variety of restricted and repetitive behaviors. This can include repetitive body movements, repetitive motions with objects, staring at lights or spinning objects, ritualistic behaviors (which are similar to the obsessive actions of obsessive-compulsive disorder), narrow or extreme interests in specific topics, and a need for unvarying routine or a resistance to change.
Autism is more common than many people assume, and it is important to become educated and to educate others about the topic of autism to spread awareness. Without education on the topic, we allow the social stigma of autism being something foreign and negative to survive. Although people with autism struggle with challenges that are different from people without the disorder, they also benefit from different strengths that allow them to have an alternative perspective of the world.